Last night on New Year’s Eve, there were hundreds of globos (small hot-air balloons) launched from the four-mile stretch of beach that extends from cliff face to cliff face along the oceanfront of La Manzanilla. Graceful paper forms with wire assemblies at the bottom that hold sterno cans or other purveyors of flame, they were lifted by the hot air currents growing within to sail up and gradually southwards—either out to sea or up and over the stone mountain that ends our beach and extends in a small archipelago offshore.
A successful liftoff.
Very few fell to the ocean within our sight, and thanks to a calm night with little wind, none that I saw tipped to burn up during the launch. The sometimes dozens of balloons visible at the same time seemed to be either embers fallen from the near-full moon above or lost souls lifting to join one larger soul above.
Just before midnight, at least 50 globos were released to the air in a string that eventually grew into a freeform circle before spreading to fill most of the sky over Boca de Iguana, 3 miles away at the end of the curve of our part of the bay. Yes. It was magical. And with the exception of the 50+ balloons released in a solid string, most of the night seemed unplanned, or perhaps just one hundred smaller plans joined with no prior agenda.
Parties raged up and down the beach, each with its own bonfire. Gathered to experience together this last special night of the old year were people in beachfront houses with their friends and family, citizens and snowbirds and tourists and vacationers grouped outside of restaurants, campers under beachfront palapas or grouped closer to their fires.
Young boys and very old boys set off Roman Candles and Cherry Bombs, firecrackers, flying saucers and other messages to the gods of the night, the old year and the new. Fireworks shot sideways into crowds of other kids or adults. Amazingly, not a palapa roof caught fire. Towards midnight, more spectacular fireworks of a grander scale shot farther up into the pitch black sky.
Music swelled from each of dozens of groups up and down the beach to form one big symphony, as did the shouts, cries and conversations. Gossip mixed with the whispered blessings launched with each paper balloon. Profanity mixed with prayers. Raucous laughter mixed with the sibilant suggestion of conversations farther down the beach.
It was a very special New Year’s Eve. I mixed a big jug of Sangria that none of the tequila drinkers wanted, so I did my best to appreciate it on my own. I went with two friends for the weekly spaghetti feed at Guacamole’s (a beach restaurant). We were seated at the kids’ table, every other table being taken. The seven cousins, brothers and sisters at our table, age 12 to 3, all introduced themselves politely and asked our names. Remarkable little diplomats, they all spoke English and some were from Chapala, near where I live. Everywhere I’ve gone during this visit to La Manzanilla, it has been the same. Mexican children addressing me, saying they like my earrings, asking my name or where I’m from, explaining their family history.
After our spaghetti feast, my two friends departed and I joined Daniel’s raucous group outside the porch of my beach rental. I caused another ½ glass of sangria to vanish before parking my cup on the beach bar to leave the comfort of the tequila sundown club.
Daniel had built a huge hardwood bonfire that lasted the entire night. I now knew what the big pile of driftwood he’d collected from the beach supply left by the last colossal storm was for. He had thought ahead.
We walked up the beach a mile or two, spying on groups gathered to drink and talk in the New Year. Every group had a bonfire. Almost every group was setting off fireworks and/or globos. It was an acceptable sort of peeping-Tom adventure as I attempted to snap pictures in the darkness.
A foray too close to a man with a fishing net who flicked it just as I snapped my picture had resulted in dozens of little saltwater stains on my lens that only seem to show up when I use the flash at night. Rubbing hasn’t removed them and the tedium of manually removing speck by speck with my editing feature has caused me to just forgo flash photography. This is why pictures are grainy, but you will get the idea, perhaps, of this magical night—my last as a citizen of the year 2014, my first as the very same person, now stretching out to embark upon the rest of her life. Thanks for taking my last walk of the old year with me.
My upstairs neighbors tell me the partying went on until 8 a.m. this morning, with one especially loud group (not the one pictured) parked right outside our porch. I had to admit that I was sound asleep by one a.m.. The street outside my bedroom was silent for the first time in the six weeks I’ve been here, with all partiers moved to the beach for their revelries. Since the upstairs renters’ bedroom windows are above the beach, they for once got the full brunt of the noise whereas I had blessed peace for the first time. Thanks, 2015, for this one-night respite from the noise. My first hours in your company were ones of glorious, unbroken sleep.